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SAT Practice, The New Verbal Section

Pronoun declension, case problems

. . .

Common Errors: troubles with case

In English, only pronouns are declined to indicate whether they are the subject or object of a verb.  Other nouns do not change.

Pronoun Declension

number

person

gender*

Pronouns

subject

object

singular

1st

m/f

I

me

2nd

m/f

you

you

3rd

m

he

him

f

she

her

n

it

it

plural

1st

m/f

we

us

2nd

m/f

you

you

3rd

m/f/n

they

them

s/p

3rd

m/f

who

whom

* m=masculine f=feminine n=neuter

Following the pronoun chart above, I, he, she, we, they, and who can serve as verb subjects only.  Your ear tells you that I saw she or I talked to they are wrong and that the pronouns must be replaced by objective case pronouns her and them respectively: I saw her and I talked with them. 

It is harder to determine which of who and whom should be used as who is commonly used in everyday speech where whom would be correct.  Nonetheless, one should use whom where it is called for in formal speech or writing.  It is often easiest to tell which is right by substituting he for who and him for whom as the ear is better attuned to them. 

Wrong:

Who should we ask to sponsor Rupert into the Union of Concerned Miscreants and Scoundrels?

Find the subject, verb, and object and determine whether the pronoun is used as a subject or an object.  Ask yourself whether he or him fits best:

Should we ask he?

Should we ask him?

If the answer is he, then replace it with who.

If the answer is him, then replace it with whom.

In this case, the object of the verb ask would clearly be him, and therefore whom.

Whom should we ask to sponsor Rupert into the Union of Concerned Miscreants and Scoundrels?

"Elliptical references" are those in which a comparison is made using than or as and the following word is a nominative subject: 

Nobody could possibly be as scrofulous as he.

Under no circumstances could Rupert show more blatant disregard than I. 

The he and I above are regarded as subjects of a missing but implied verb: 

Nobody could possibly be as scrofulous as he (is).

Under no circumstances could Rupert show more blatant disregard than I (show). 

When a pronoun follows as or than, check to see if a verb could be given to the pronoun and if so, use the nominative form of the pronoun.

Case Quiz

Some of the following contain subject/object errors.  Circle the errors or indicate their absence.  Below each error, write your corrected version.  

First, identify pronouns whose case must be reflected correctly.  Check if they are the subject or object of a verb.  Look for elliptical constructs using as or than, and prepositions that may take the pronoun as an object. 

Example:

Who should we expect to weave the missing chocolate birdbath into the conversation before she forgets to do anything useful with the document shredder or the pot of experimental begonias?    

Subject

verb

object 

We

 should expect

who/whom

Again, it is often best to replace who/whom pairs with he/him pairs as the ear is more attuned to them:

Subject

verb

object 

We

should expect

he

Clearly, we should expect he is wrong and should be we should expect him and therefore, we should expect whom.   Thus, corrected, the sentence would read:

Whom should we expect to weave the missing chocolate birdbath into the conversation before she forgets to do anything useful with the document shredder or the pot of experimental begonias?    

1.     Severus asked the three braves and I whether a greased ferret might stand a chance of fetching the broken spectacles.  

 

2.     Boadicea doubted that anyone could be quite as excited as her when Gerald tried tying the herring tarts to the paddle and dipping them in the marmalade.   

3.     Rowena and Boadicea assured the artist that nobody in the kingdom could possibly fling yogurt more gracefully or with more sublime effect than him.  

4.     Neither Rowland nor Boadicea, emerging slowly from behind the inflatable hyena, could imagine anyone irritating the postman as artfully as they. 

5.     Whom should be expected to unload the amorous giraffe before the rain washes all the fudge away revealing the magic tortoise and the baseball cap. 

6.     Neither the dwarf on the tricycle nor me could be seen clearly behind the smoldering bagpipes or it is to be sincerely hoped that we could not.

7.     Even these strangely loony Hungarians could suspect neither the ornately painted guests nor I of hiding the recalcitrant ostrich in our luggage.   

8.     Only when accompanied by the troubadour, the two thoroughly inebriated ice-cream salesmen, and me, did Hermione stand a chance of intimidating the officious, flowerpot-wielding zookeeper.   

Answers

1.  Severus asked the three braves and I whether a greased ferret might stand a chance of fetching the broken spectacles.   Pronoun: I/me

Severus asked me is clearly best as me is the object of the verb ask.   Thus: Severus asked the three braves and me whether a greased ferret might stand a chance of fetching the broken spectacles.  

Subject

verb

object 

Severus

asked

me

2.  Boadicea doubted that anyone could be quite as excited as her when Gerald tried tying the herring tarts to the paddle and dipping them in the marmalade.   

Pronoun: she. 

Note the word as which makes this an elliptical construct with missing verb could: Boadicea doubted that anyone could be quite as excited as she (could).

Subject

verb

she

could

3.  Rowena and Boadicea assured the artist that nobody in the kingdom could possibly fling yogurt more gracefully or with more sublime effect than him.  

Pronoun: him. 

Note the word than which makes this an elliptical construct with implied verb could.   ... could fling yogurt as...as he (could). 

Subject

verb

he

could 

4.  Neither Rowland nor Boadicea, emerging slowly from behind the inflatable hyena, could imagine anyone irritating the postman as artfully as they. 

Pronoun: they.  This is an elliptical construct with implied verb could.    Neither Rowland nor Boadicea, emerging slowly from behind the inflatable hyena, could imagine anyone irritating the postman as artfully as they (could).  This sentence is correct as it is.

Subject

verb

they

could 

5.  Whom should be expected to unload the amorous giraffe before the rain washes all the fudge away revealing the magic tortoise and the baseball cap. 

Pronoun: whom. 

Who should be clearly sounds better as who is the subject of the verb, thus:  Who should be expected to unload the amorous giraffe before the rain washes all the fudge away revealing the magic tortoise and the baseball cap. 

Subject

verb

Who

should be  expected

6.  Neither the dwarf on the tricycle nor me could be seen clearly behind the smoldering bagpipes -- or it is to be sincerely hoped that we could not.

Pronoun: me 

I could be clearly sounds better as I is the subject of the verb could, thus:  Neither the dwarf on the tricycle nor I could be seen clearly behind the smoldering bagpipes -- or it is to be sincerely hoped that we could not.  (We is also an inflected pronoun but is clearly correct as the subject of the verb could: we could not.)

Subject

verb

I

could be 

  

7.  Even these strangely loony Hungarians could suspect neither the ornately painted guests nor I of hiding the recalcitrant ostrich in our luggage.   

Pronoun: I 

The pronoun is the object of the verb phrase could suspect, and must therefore be me:  Even these strangely loony Hungarians could suspect neither the ornately painted guests nor me of hiding the recalcitrant ostrich in our luggage.  

Subject

verb

object

Hungarians

could suspect 

me

8.  Only when accompanied by the troubadour, the two thoroughly inebriated ice-cream salesmen and me, did Hermione stand a chance of intimidating the officious flowerpot-wielding zookeeper.    Pronoun: me 

The passive verb construct uses the preposition by and the pronoun is the object of the preposition.  Thus, the use of me is correct:  Only when accompanied by the troubadour, the two thoroughly inebriated ice-cream salesmen, and me, did Hermione stand a chance of intimidating the officious flowerpot-wielding zookeeper. 

Subject

verb 

preposition

object of

preposition

Hermione

(was) accompanied  

by

me

 . . .

  Excerpted with permission from SAT Practice: The New Verbal Section.